The English Translator
Promises of more
Ruth headed up the stairs to the attic with Carl the Cat close at her heels. She’d promised Sally she’d look out the wedding photo album for her. Swinging open the door, she stepped inside the room. Taking in the vast array of boxes, forgotten suitcases, general junk and paraphernalia stacked there, her heart sank. She thought her promise might very well have been a rash one. She struggled to think where she could have put it. She vaguely remembered the album; it was bright white with a spray of roses glued precariously across the front. A memory of lilies and roses flashed across her mind and she felt a nostalgic twinge far, far back at the furthest recesses of her mind. She started to randomly open drawers, riffling inside to see if any memorabilia jogged her memory.
As the light outside started to fade, Ruth felt disheartened. She’d been through three-quarters of the attic now and still had seen nothing remotely like a wedding album. She moved over to the small window of the attic where the streetlight hit the wall. Dust motes floated in the air; she felt her lungs become cloggy with the thought of them. Leaning to peer behind a long-forgotten wardrobe, she spied an old cardboard box. Battered and covered in dust, it obviously hadn’t been opened in years. Bending down carefully, her back twinging faintly, she pulled the box towards her. Taking out her handkerchief, she wiped the top. Somebody had written “Not to be chucked out” in bold letters across it. The handwriting looked familiar. Granny, perhaps? Aunt Mabel? She wondered what could be inside that anybody would consider too good to be thrown away but too bad to bother to keep on display. She unfolded the top carefully. It had been folded one piece under another in that clever way that prevented it falling open but not well enough to stop it popping open when lifted. Prising the pieces apart, she peeked inside and caught a glimpse of something shiny. Intrigued, she unfolded the box completely. A flood of memories came rushing into her mind, overtaking her senses and making her struggle to breathe with their intensity.
A circle of light penetrated the darkness of the glade. A rustling in the undergrowth made her look round. The dim surroundings gave no sign of life, so she turned back and continued to do what she was doing. She sat busily working away for a while. Time stretched into an eternity and she felt the coolness seeping up from the ground.
Jumping up, she dropped her work onto a grassy mound and frantically waved her arms, trying to warm herself. But the cold had too firm a hold and she shivered involuntarily. The birds busied themselves in the trees, chirping messages of the day’s happenings to one another, slowly unwinding and readying themselves for the night.
The light had moved from the centre of the glade and was just starting to brush the edge of the trees with a delicate golden hue. Stars as bright as day made themselves known in the night sky, but still she waited. Tense and miserable. The heat of the day had long fled this place and a fear started to gnaw deep inside. She suppressed the feeling and tried to think happy thoughts. Thoughts of yesterday when the world was perfect. When the heavens had understood her and when the sun had smiled down on her and only her. She had felt uplifted. Recognised as a true talent. Accepted by her people. The thought comforted her. She glanced around. Noticing the babbling brook, she moved over to it and stretched her hand down into its silver depths. Fishes flitted through the reeds. She watched them for a while, bobbing down to take a closer look. The fishes darted away. The water was so clear she could see the bottom. Dipping both hands beneath the water to form a cup, she drank and was surprised how the cool element snaked down her throat like a piece of ice.
These pieces are from an Amherst Writers & Artists writing session entitled Writers’ Stretch & Tone with Matthew Curlewis of Amsterdam Writers on 18 May 2021.